Narrative Essay #1: December, 2019

It’s rare that I leave the house after sunrise on a weekday. Most weekdays are spent waiting as long as possible to get out of bed, then stumbling into clothes and a bathroom routine. Gather my things, grab lunch and a Soylent from the kitchen, and head out the door. If I’m up to it I’ll make sure the sink is clear. On Fridays, I empty a couple of trash cans into a bag so I can toss it into the large trash can that’s a few yards away from my car.

I usually grab the newspaper for my Dad, except on the rare occasions that he’s up before I’m out the door. I started out a year ago just putting the paper near the back door on my way to the bus stop. I started putting the paper on the arm of his chair when I started exiting out the back door.

On damp days, I clean off my windows while the car warms up. Set up my phone and plug it into the car stereo, open the bottle of Soylent and take a swig. Check for messages from my Sweetie if he’s already up. Maybe check the commute and figure out when I’ll get to work.

I’ve been in the habit of listening to Audiobooks or Podcasts on my commute. Music’s been too much to take in while driving to work lately, and on the way home, I like to finish up what I’ve been listening to. At this particular moment in time, I’m listening to Acid for the Children, Flea’s memoir. His writing style and how he reads the words he wrote has been inspiring. On this particular weekday, his voice fills my ears as I see the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains as I get to the peak of the hill that offers a view that I grew up seeing. The houses go higher up into the foothills as they did in my elementary school years. It’s snowing in places it hardly ever does, which is why the mountains look that way. Every 5 to 10 years, this happens. People can be so quick to forget because they act like it’s never happened before every time it happens.

It’s an odd coincidence this is happening now. I remember when this happened a decade ago. My life was much different. That snow was surrounding me, as I was on the other side of those mountains in a geodesic dome with the family I had then. Yes, I once had a husband, six cats, and for a time a rooster and a couple of hens. I lost all that almost 5.5 years ago. While I’ve spent the time since that loss going forward and building a life for myself, I haven’t really processed the profoundness of being the only survivor of that household. I took a step towards finally doing so, with the assistance of the same group of mental health providers I had in the 90’s. The office has been upgraded, of course. I now speak to the folks at the front desk through glass. There’s a security guard behind the glass with them. I now answer questions on a tablet that are tracked with every visit–a mental health equivalent of taking my vitals. Yes, I’m really depressed and anxious, but no, I’m not suicidal. Having survived my husband’s suicide, I have no desire to put my loved ones through that. Especially my parents and my Sweetie.

I have to open these “cans of worms” as I’ve been referring to them lately. The hole in my heart for my former family and the life I once had. The facts: I know why that life failed, and I didn’t have as big of a hand in it than I was led to believe while I was living that life. All of that requires a lot of mental strength and time, as I have to recover from allowing myself to feel all of that. It hurts just as much as it did when I broke my arm. But it’s an emotional pain, which is a much harder pain to endure and find relief from. I have a plan in place to open those cans, examine the contents, and realize what it means now. I need to do it. I can’t keep that kind of pain in anymore. Even if it means missing several days of pay over the next few months.

Work is work. I’ve worked harder for the same money, and I have benefits. Getting out of bed is hard, but once I’m out the door, I can get through the next 10 hours. Sure, there are days when I’d like to go home an hour after I clock in, but I find a way to get through the day, and am very proud of myself when 4 o’clock rolls around and I head out the building and to my car.

My commute home is a different route the first third or so of the way due to traffic. It’s a fun drive a first, which helps me unwind and makes me happy that I have a sports car (but I don’t drive like a maniac). If I’m up for it, I take a detour to the gym to get a little stretching and cardio in. My only goal with the gym is to keep going and get at least 3 miles in on the bike. Then I go home, check in with my parents, eat, shower, talk to my Sweetie, and head to bed.

This kind of routine is not one I’m really used to. In my former life I worked at home. I’ve had this job a year. The last time I worked at a job for a year was 2002-2003. I was at that job exactly one year and was coerced into quitting by my late husband, for a reason that was never really explained, but had to do with us wanting to move out of our apartment and into a house. We got the dome in mid-2003 and had it exactly for 11 years.

It’s the last Saturday morning in December and it’s time to drive up to see my Sweetie. I leave after sunup, partially tracing my commute home (in reverse) to get to the 60 freeway. The snow-covered mountains greet me again, but this time I’m heading to the other side of them. Flea’s voice fills the car as I head east to the 15 North. When I pass Devore, the snow starts to become more visible, but it takes until the 138 to appear on the side of the road. I have to slam on my breaks right past the Weigh Station that used to excite me because it meant I was almost home and back with my former family. Today, the exit I used to take is quite long–people wanting to take advantage of the snow to head out for a family day trip or to enjoy the ski resort. I’m glad I can avoid all that. I hated how crowded it got on Hwy 2 after a snow when all I wanted to do was run my normal errands. All the impatient families who used my old road as a playground and set up little hibachi grills like they were at the park. They couldn’t be bothered to actually head into town, buy a $5 pass, and go into the area set aside for them.

But today, I head past all that, marveling at the snow that covers the hills around me. More snow is expected in a few days, but I’ll be back to the land of my birth and the area I’ve been working in for the past year.

Now it’s Sunday morning and I’m writing all this down. My Sweetie had to work early today, and I found myself alone in our room for the first time in months. I started writing, and it felt good to finally get all of this down. It’s been brewing in my head all week.

I keep telling myself that I have to make more time for myself to write. I think I will when I have those days to work on those cans of worms. Narrative essay style rather than journaling or first person fiction. I feel the need to articulate my thoughts and daily experiences rather than how I feel. That will come later.

Three That Left in ’19

This year, the world lost one remarkable woman and two wonderful, brilliant, talented, and funny men to what Gilda Radner called “The most unfunny thing in the world, cancer.” It’s been 30 years since we lost Gilda Radner. I often wonder if the drugs she took to try to have a baby was the catalyst of to set off her genetic predisposition to the disease. But I digress. My friends Golden Ears and Mr. Bill both died of cancer. My youngest aunt Elizabeth died as well. I accept these deaths as a part of life, but they’ve left holes in the lives of many people that only those who feel the loss can comprehend. That pain is one I can relate to in my on way, but not their way. Death is so personal, so subjective from person to person. I think we need to do a better job as a society to accept death and do a better job comforting the dying so they can greet death as an old friend. (Yes, that’s a Deathly Hallows reference.) I guess it really is true that you understand death the longer you’ve been alive.

Golden Ears was my late husband Kevin’s oldest friend, They met in Orange County, CA in 1980. Golden Ears was working at a computer store, and Kevin walked in, went up to the alphaSyntauri keyboard that was hooked up to an Apple II and started playing a line from one of the classic Prog keyboardists (I want to say Emerson). Golden Ears, a talented musician and music lover, recognized the tune, He was a force of nature who was the coolest Nerd I knew. He was the one who set me up with a nice telecommuting job back in 1998 that made me realize that doing customer support was a good fit for me. I’m eternally grateful for that nudge. His memorial service was wonderful, a loving tribute to him by his closest family and friends. It also included a chance to take pictures at a self-serve photo booth with the back drop of the ending frame of the Loony Toons cartoons–That’s All, Folks! Those were his favorite, and the kind of humor that he would have wanted at his memorial.

Mr. Bill was an online friend my age I’d met via the website MetaFilter. He’d lost his wife in 2009, and when my husband died in 2014, he was very supportive. I could be honest with him about what I was feeling, and he validated a lot of the range of emotions I felt the first six months or so. I never met him in person–he lived in Texas. He was a great soul as well as the coolest Gen X Nerd I knew. He was much more than that, as he loved to go to TRF, and a member of his local Masonic Lodge.

My Aunt Elizabeth is my Mom’s youngest sister. The half century she was on this earth was tumultuous, and she carried a wonderful spirit throughout it. As sometimes happens in larger Mexican families, she was only 7 years older than me. I have her to thank for knowing who Gilda Radner is in the first place. She woke me up to see Saturday Night Live when I was 4 to see Roseanne Rosannadanna. I found it funny, even though I wouldn’t understand the jokes until I saw that bit again when I was 15.

2020 is the first full year without all these three, and all of us who knew and loved them will do our best to carry on without them. For Bill Hicks was right, it’s just a ride.